New to using archives?

To find out how to access documents held by The National Archives, first you will need to check the record’s catalogue description in Discovery to see which options are available.

The catalogue also includes the records of other archives: please note that this page explains how you can access documents only held by The National Archives.

Please note: Our document reading room is currently open for pre-booked visits only, offering a limited service to visitors who need access to our collection of original documents for their research.

Some of our online services are currently unavailable:

  • Reader’s ticket requests
  • Advance/bulk document orders
  • Record copying

While The National Archives is closed, we are making digital records free to download to signed-in users.

Download a digital copy

We are currently providing free downloads of our digital collection for the time being, as we are only able to reopen our reading rooms for a very limited number of researchers. We will continue to review this as things change further.

To find records that are available to download for free, filter your search results in Discovery to include records that are ‘available for download only’.

To download for free, users will be required to:

  • Register/sign in to their Discovery account before adding items to their basket (maximum 10 items per basket)
  • Abide by the terms of our fair use policy
  • Complete the order process to receive a download link, which will remain active for 30 days. (The link will also be saved in ‘Current orders’ in your account for 30 days)

Our usual terms of use still apply – digital copies can be downloaded for non-commercial private use and educational purposes only, and bulk downloads and web crawlers are not permitted.

Some digitised records are also available to view through websites such as Findmypast or Ancestry: this will be specified in the catalogue description in Discovery. These are usually free to search but there may be a subscription charge to view.